Walleyes can be funny critters. Their feeding patterns change based on time of year, water temperature, atmospheric pressure, light penetration, wind and waves and location of primary food sources.
In some big deep lakes where Smallmouth Bass have eaten the shore clean the Walleyes take off into deep water and are much harder to catch. We are not going to discuss deep-water techniques to any extent in this article because all the backcountry Walleye lakes around Moose Horn Lodge are shallow and easy to fish. The Walleyes in our area are rarely deeper than 15 feet.
In the spring 90% of a lakeís Walleye population will be either right along the shore near sandy areas, in small streams and rivers or around sand bars that have at least a tiny bit of cover such as wild rice or lily pads. The reason they are there is because they spawn on sand just after ice out. The smaller males in the 1 to 2.5 pound range will stay shallow all day in early spring unless itís an unusually hot and sunny day for that time of year. When they do go deeper to avoid sunlight they will not go any deeper than 5 feet. However, the big spawning females will go off into deep water during the day especially if they have not dropped all their eggs. Full of eggs and exhausted by being hounded by males makes them very vulnerable to attack by Northern Pike so they seek protection in the deeper water.
You want to cast small shallow-running Rapalas, Rebels or Thundersticks. You can also use light jigs such as 1/16th oz jigs or any small bait but you need to be able to stay shallow. Bright colors like red, yellow, chartreuse or fire-tiger work best for the small males in the spring. If itís windy and you are drifting over the Walleye hotspot then drag a spinner or a worm harness with a nice fat worm.
The best way to find the Walleye hotspots is to troll along the shore until you get into them and then shut the motor off and start casting or keep drifting over the area. If you keep trolling back and forth you will spook the Walleyes and may even damage their spawning beds. In the spring Walleyes are one of the easiest fishing to catch, which is one of the reasons they are so popular.
If you want to get the big females, which are usually the 5-pounders and up; you need to examine the main spawning area. About Ĺ hour before dark until about an hour after dark the big female Walleyes will take off along the shore by themselves in either direction of the main spawning area. They will come right up into two feet of water to hunt down minnows and eat as much as they can before they spend the night on the spawning beds. The prime area is a sandy shoreline with wild rice or bulrushes that drops off quickly into a deep hole. Trolling or casting along these areas with a small blue and silver J-9 Rapala will produce massive Walleyes. There are lots of small blue shallow-running lures on the market. I like the Rapala J-9s because they are soft and the Walleyes bite into them.
Late Spring into Summer:
As the Walleyes finish spawning they usually make their way to rocky points where there is lots of wave action producing oxygen or around narrows where there is some water flow. In many smaller lakes the Walleye will hide in the weeds. There are many structures that attract minnows and you will find Walleyes at these places. Some spots may house more Walleyes because they are more attractive to feeder fish as well.
Walleye feed very aggressively in the morning. From day break until 9:30am on super clear lakes or until 10:30 on lakes with normal clarity. They usually start feeding again late afternoon after dinner. This is based on a normal sunny summer day. If a weather system comes in and it started raining or becomes cloudy and overcast, the Walleyes may feed well all afternoon. Even on sunny days the Walleyes will start feeding if the wind picks up and the wave action deflects enough light to lower light penetration into the water.
During the day the best and most popular method of catching Walleyes is with light jigs. 1/8 to 3/8 oz is the best size. Small white unscented twistertails or salted twistertails work best. Scented baits do not work well in the north. They are designed for southern waters where there are a lot more suspended particles in the water. However salted baits work great in the north.
Even though white twistertails work best; on some days black, yellow or green can be the hot colors. It is best to use a small twistertail so you have lots of hook showing. This way you can tip the hook with a piece of worm or a small minnow. Some guests when cleaning Walleyes cut out the gullets and save them for bait the next day. With gullet you only need a tiny piece because it gives off a lot of smell. Gullet does not work on all lakes. In some lakes the Walleye goes crazy over it and other lakes they avoid it. Walleyes everywhere like worms and minnows.
Hot Summer Afternoon:
Most guests fish for Walleye early morning or in the evening and then concentrate on Northern Pike and Smallmouth Bass in the afternoon. As the afternoon sunlight penetrates the water many people think the Walleyes have stopped feeding. In actual fact, the Walleye are blinded by the sun. This is when the Walleyes go down to the bottom and also look down to protect their eyes. In this case try putting a worm on a hook or a minnow on a hook and just let your line sink to the bottom and sit on bottom. You will be surprised that the Walleyes are still feeding. They are just not going after anything suspended in the water because they canít see well in bright light. Their sense of smell will guide them to the bait just like a catfish.
Summer Night Fishing:
Just before dark the big trophy Walleyes start to move in from the deeper water. For the first few hours after dark they will be right up into two feet deep of water. Trolling with light worm harnesses or shallow running lures works best. Different colors will work, especially in the spring. Later on in the summer the Walleyes tend to go after more natural colors such as black & Silver or brown & silver. When fishing at night the very best color is blue & silver. Walleyes have super night vision and at night they are sensitive to a different light spectrum, which could explain why blue works so well.
Deep Water Walleyes:
Generally all our lakes are shallow and fishing deep is not necessary. There is a chance that you find a deep hole just off a rocky point where you are catching lots of Walleyes. There is a chance that this hole might be hiding a couple big trophies. In this case you may want to troll slow and deep with light action techniques such as a 3-way swivel Walleye rig or a Loten Walleye Rig. Itís easy to find information of these rigs with Google.